Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Friday, February 22, 2008

HOW OTHERS SEE US, a comment

..and how we see ourselves

This was initially written as a comment to the previous post about how others see Africans but it turned out to be too long so I am posting it separately.

When someone tests positive for HIV he has tested positive whether it is in Yendi, Ghana or Boise, Idaho. We have to assume the statistics from Africa must be true unless we are saying that the testing is flawed or the numbers are being manipulated. The question is why is it not wiping out large swathes of villages in mostly southern Africa? That is the answer that we don't know and unfortunately a couple of people here are making some generalizations to Africa.

I would ask the guys who made those accusations or assertions to provide their evidence. You have to accept that you and I have a limited knowledge of Africa as well and what may be true for Ghana, Nigeria (I lived there a bit) and most of West Africa may not be true for Southern Africa. The gentleman may actually be quoting examples from villages in a part of that vast continent that we may be oblivious of. His error is that he is generalizing and thus exaggerating very wildly what may be a true problem in only a tiny part of the continent.

With regards to the research being done by Annang’s friend, the fact that Accra Girls Secondary students come out good does not therefore generalize to the whole of Ghana and we are equally wrong in making generalizations. The statistic is only as good as the sample that was used- certainly deductions or conclusions can be made but we need to be careful not to label them as the absolute truth.

I remember that on my last visit to Calorius, that we had this raging debate on whether the villages or the cities in Ghana were more promiscuous. There was a White American present who had spent time in Ghana and was married to a Ghanaian lady, who along with me were the only two guys in a room full of vociferous Ghanaians who actually believed that the villages were more promiscuous than the cities. I still remember how indignant the Ghanaians were that we could even say such a thing about Ghanaian villages. What I kept hearing is that we were not that “immoral”. I, together with the American, had very different views from the rest of the partisan crowd.

Where did I get my views from? From my relatives who came from the villages to stay with us, from my experience during my Community Health rotations in fairly rural areas during medical school, and even from some of my own friends from the villages. Does that mean that I should have generalized? No, but I had seen a trend that had some fact to it. In the same way, Robbo has to engage the guys for their sources, assuming they are willing to dialogue, and then assess all of the information intelligently.

I have talked quite a bit to a classmate who lived in Southern Africa for 9 years and based on that, I can believe that some of these things may have happened there. I would definitely not generalize though, let alone throw out what I consider such inflammatory rhetoric on the web. When all is said and done, this should not have been written on the web the way it was; it insults all Africans. There are serious issues of morality all over the world. We are all sinners and I am the chief of them. - Alien Warrior

Related post
Changing the way others see us. Part I

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Changing the way others see us. Part I

AFRICA, still a relatively unknown country.

Occasionally, I think I lurk in the twilight zone of the internet and I should be looking for new places. There is a blog I read called the Boar’s Head Tavern which is an online conversation between a group of Christians mostly from the USA but also the UK and Canada. I find it very interesting and educative because they come from very different viewpoints. The subjects discussed are wide ranging and I confess that sometimes, the deep theology is above my “Sermon on the Mount” level of understanding.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no brother represented on the blog so anytime anything about Blacks or Africans comes up it is quite interesting and sometimes burdensome to read the thoughts of my Christian brothers. Some of these Christian brothers could be your next door neighbor in the college dormitory, apartment, town house or suburban single family home but attend a different Church. Or, they may be the people who sit next to you in the local Church you have made your home.

It was very educative and enlightening to read the discussion there in the aftermath of Don Imus and the Rutgers Basketball team. Recently the subject turned to AIDS and Africa and the vast sums the government of President Bush has provided in aid for research and treatment. Remember that this is a blog which operates in the manner of a bar and patrons come and go, and grant that in a bar-like atmosphere, a lot of banter goes on and as the wine flows, lips and fingers on a keyboard get loosened and careless talk is possible. Here is the comment that troubled me.

Can you severely curb AIDS in Africa with a court decision? No. Obviously not. The barbarous, animalistic sexual morality of a huge number of men and women on that continent and the crushing poverty/religious strictures that turn many women to prostitution is not something one can end by the USSC simply saying “No, AIDS is not allowed according to the Constitution.” Posted by: xxxxx @ 2:59 pm

I decided to send the following email to the writer.

"Please tone it town a bit. There are quite a few "African" Christians who read the Boar's Head Tavern blog. I certainly do, very often. There is varied opinion there and I do not expect to agree with everything but "barbarous, animalistic sexual morality" takes it a bit too far. Don't believe everything you read wherever you get your information from. Get to know some real Africans and if you get a chance, pay a visit to an African country and get yourself pleasantly surprised.

The average unregenerate African is really no different morally from the average unregenerate American.

Peace, Robbo"
I did not get any reply from him but at least I thought he would think carefully before writing such broad generalizations. Fortunately, someone else on the blog took the writer to task and asked him to justify his assertions but he maintained his position, which does not surprise me. On the internet, people seldom ever admit they could be wrong, let alone change their positions.

A few days later, I was reading through the same blog again and came across this by another completely different writer still on the "the AIDS crisis". Honestly, this takes the biscuit

African Sexual morals are a difficult question because their culture has certain practices that would break out of the Christian paradigm. For example, it is very common in Africa that when a women’s husband dies (from Aids or anything) that his surviving brother is supposed to have sex with her to cleanse her of grief etc.

There’s also a lot of incest. I don’t think it would be fair to judge these cultures as more “immoral” but there’s an awful lot of intercourse going on between unmarried couples.


Then again, there’s lots of stuff I don’t understand. College educated African men beat their college educated African wives just like some parents here spank their toddlers. Posted by xxxx @ 6:24 pm


You hear this kind of stuff on AM Talk Radio; three years ago when the circumstances of life caused me to make a fortnightly 7 hour journey from Pennsylvania to Connecticut to spend weekends with my family until we were reunited, similar uninformed talk by Radio Hosts and their callers was useful in keeping me awake during the long drive. However, is there any excuse for a Christian brother to be writing something like that or is ignorance or wrong information an excuse?

I really do not care to address the misrepresentation, misconception and borderline prejudice in these statements. For one thing, I do not think these two writers mean any malice. I do not intend to flame anyone and that is why I have not placed any direct links to the blog in question, though it is easy to find. My intention is for us to examine ourselves and see how best we respond to such situations in real life, not the faceless internet.

One can argue that before we also arrived in the UK or the USA, we also had a much skewed mentality; we thought the streets were paved with platinum, and milk and corn syrup flowed from the taps. Our idea of America was largely based on LA Law, the Cosby Show and well, the Bronx Warriors. Our idea of the UK was a genteel society where they drank tea at 3 o'clock, cats talked to the Queen etc, okay not really. So then, why should I blame a well meaning Christian brother if in this great information age, he has a picture of Africa we don't recognize?

There is a tendency in the press to make generalizations about sub-Saharan Africa which in actuality comprises a very diverse people and culture. So from time to time, I will post brief lessons here for any interested parties.

Lesson 1

Africa is a diverse continent with 54 different countries. Ghana, a small country in West Africa the size of the US State of Oregon contains a diverse group of 24 million people speaking at least 50 completely different languages. The national language is English, which is also the language of instruction in school. - Robbo

Related post
BALANCE, POLARIZATION and the Child of God

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Introducing Dr Annang Asumang's new book


UNLOCKING THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
available for purchase here

The New Testament book of Hebrews is both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. Many readers are challenged by its stirring language, yet at the same time, many are puzzled by deeply doctrinal part of the book with its arguments based on Old Testament imagery and also by the dire warnings.

Each block of the expositions in Hebrews is circumscribed in a particular space. Heb 1 is located in Heaven, Heb 2 in the World, and Heb 5-10 in Heaven and the Holy of Holies. The exhortations of Hebrews are, on the other hand, focused on movement. That of Hebrews 2 describes staying firm and not drifting, that of Heb 3-4 describes entering, and that of Heb 11-13 describes various movements such as coming, running, travelling etc.

By using a Bible Study method called Spatial Analysis, Dr Asumang, a medical doctor, Bible teacher and a contributor to this blog, shows how the various themes of Hebrews fit together to make one whole message. He also shows how the Old Testament Book of Numbers sheds considerable light on Hebrews.

Chapters of this book include:
What is the problem with Hebrews?
Spatial Analysis of a Bible Text,
Spatial Analysis of the Exposition of Hebrews,
Spatial Analysis of the Exhortations
Hebrews, Discipleship and the Metaphor of Migration
.

Anyone seeking to understand Hebrews will indeed find this book of to be of immense help and a blessing. - Robbo

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

MIRACLES IN OUR DAY. Part III

His Grace Is Sufficient. by Gaius Columbus

Like a scientist faced with highly variable data, I think we ought to start with the invariant, the constant, the unchanging. For me, this invariant is the notion received through faith that God's word is always true. This starting place is encapsulated in the words of the Apostle Paul, "let God be true and every man a liar". When we start here, the obvious conclusion through sober judgment is that my experience, if it does not square with my conception of God's word, must change or be modified. If I expect to be performing miracles because of my understanding of some verse, but find that I am not moving the small mound in my backyard, then something about my conception is wrong.

With specific regard to healing, I recognize then that I, like many others, do not have the gift of spectacular healing. In appraising my gifts, I am compelled to come to this conclusion through sober judgment. The data trumps the theory. The weight of the evidence, the accumulated data, forces this conclusion upon me. In practical terms, when faced with a disease in myself or in others, I will pray for grace, embracing all of God's gifts to me, modern medicine, faith healing and the prayers of righteous men. If healing comes through any of these avenues, I will be grateful. If not, or if I live through a period of miracle-drought, I will still rejoice in all of God's other mercies toward me.

Casting my bread on the water, not knowing from whence my blessings may come, what I will no longer do is restrict God's grace to any one arena of operation. I will not put God in a box. I will not say that God only heals through prayer or through the ministry of a gifted healer. Remember that Paul, an Apostle recommended a little medicinal wine to treat the gastric ailment of Timothy; not everything is controlled or healed through direct miraculous activity. Similarly, neither will I say that God today works only through modern medicine. There are many reports of miracles of all degrees of wonder today. Neither the position that all healing occurs through miraculous activity or all healing today occurs through medicine is true. God can operate in whatever way He chooses, including choosing not to act, as in the case of Paul, when he himself was tormented with a thorn in the flesh. God's grace indeed is sufficient for me in every circumstance.

Ultimately, however, my relationship with God has to deepen past that which is based solely on what I can receive from His hand. It has to transcend temporal gifts. David says all I desire in heaven is you. Assurance of His love for me and relationship with Him then has to become my bedrock, my unshakable foundation at all times. Whether this love of His for me manifests in miraculous healing, modern medicine or in no cure at all, I will continue to serve and to trust Him. The one unchanging principle--the invariant-- no matter what life throws at me is His love and grace toward me, in which I am to immerse myself continually.

My barber, recently diagnosed with a liver mass and undergoing therapy, said something like this to me. “God is good even if this disease kills me”. This is my best paraphrase of what he said and the correct conception of this issue. Working within such a framework, we stand on a rock, unmoved and unmovable by the vicissitudes and trials of life, looking always to God's broader grace, only a small part of which is the spectacular and the miraculous. - G Columbus

Related posts
MIRACLES IN OUR DAY Part II
MIRACLES IN OUR DAY, a recap. Part I

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Friday, February 01, 2008

MIRACLES IN OUR DAY. Part II

by Gaius Columbus

In response to the comments in my other post , I too enjoyed reading Josh McDowell's book Evidence that demands a verdict. Like Luke, his book served to assure me of the certainty of what I had believed. I doubt, however, that a hard-core skeptic, unwilling to countenance the possibility of the Divine, would have been convinced.

Calorius is correct when he says the recipient's faith plays a key role in making sense of unusual phenomena. The intransigent Pharisee attributes these spectacular events to the workings of juju or magic, the naturalist scientist to chance or to some known or as yet undetermined law of nature, and the believer to acts of Divine power and grace. Each because of his/her peculiar predisposition while agreeing that something spectacular has occurred--this is important--reaches a verdict regarding the cause that is at variance with the others. In some ways, therefore, the strength of one's previously held position can make the data irrelevant and the conclusion a foregone thing. This, in a sense, explains a lot of internet debates.

So I agree with each one of you when you say the parameters of this discussion--particularly the intended audience--have to be set carefully. My intended audience for this discussion is primarily the believer for whom the dearth of miracles in his own, and in modern life has become a stumbling block. To a far lesser extent, I also include the unbeliever who may be genuinely open to, but not convinced of the "wild" claims of the Bible; i.e., the non-Christian seeker such as the Ethiopian Eunuch or the rich young man in the Bible who deserve a serious answer, even though that answer may be of a different flavor than that offered the believer.

In response to the other comment posed by George, if one could show that our Lord's era was no different from previous or subsequent times, this would indeed invalidate my argument made earlier. The gospel narrative suggests, however, that this is not the case--again, see John 21:25. There were indeed intervals in the OT during which miraculous activity occurred at a heightened pace. Returning to the analogies used previously, this would be akin to times of higher-than-normal volatility in the markets (those not reaching spectacular levels) or to passable reception on the radio not attaining the quality of a high fidelity signal.

Such times, Christians would say, merely foreshadow our Lord's ministry. They are types of what was to come; the earth tremors before the major earthquake, followed in a sense by the aftershocks of the first century and present era. This rush or explosion during our Lord's ministry is observed not only in the frequency of the miraculous acts, but also in their magnitude, culminating in the ultimate miracle, His resurrection from death not by the intercession of men as previously recorded (see Elijah and Elisha), but by His own authority. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. I Jn 10: 17-18.

All of this, the spottiness of miraculous activity through time, suggests to me that the predominant motif in man's dealings with God is not the spectacular but rather Grace. Not “Magic” (or the magical) but rather Mercy. Grace and Mercy, present from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation. Grace in the garden, grace in the stories of Abel and Noah, grace in the prophets, grace in life of David, and on and on. Indeed, an examination of the Scriptures reveals that miracles appear much later in the narrative, and then only in fits and spurts. Far more pervasive and permeating the Scripture is God's grace to His servants.

If so, God's words to Paul when he asked for healing are apt; No miracle this time, just my grace is sufficient for you. Indeed, it should be stated that unless miracles are themselves embedded in an overarching framework of grace and right theology, they run the risk of becoming mere spectacles, the voyeuristic experience of the fickle such as the crowd that followed Jesus or, worse still, a diabolical means for leading people astray as we are told false prophets and the Antichrist will do. We walk by faith not by sight.

In my next post I hope to say something of how this overarching principle of grace relates to my view of miracles today, using Paul's experience as a starting point. Till then, let me just say that I do not believe the popular notion of every Christian as potential healer and miracle-worker. I do not believe this position is supported by a right understanding of Scripture. I believe instead that on a bedrock of grace for daily living, God occasionally and even today raises men and women endowed with spectacular gifts of healing and with miracle working ability to bless us (see Roman 12: 3-8, posted below).

Spectacular miracles have and continue to accompany Christ's body as a corporate entity, but not always as individuals. His grace, however, extends past and supersedes specially gifted people and special times, remaining even in times of perceived miracle-drought. Grace is the invariant in this sea of up and down miraculous activity. It points us to the Giver of all good gifts rather than to the gift itself. It manifests in gifts received in the natural as well as in the supernatural but results ultimately in relationship. - G Columbus

Romans 12: 3-8: For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Related post
MIRACLES IN OUR DAY, a recap. Part I

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